Kirk Fletcher – My Blues Pathway
10 tracks/45 minutes
Kirk Fletcher might be best known for his work with The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Joe Bonamassa but that is soon going to change as more and more people hear him fronting his own band. With six new tracks and four cool covers, Fletcher delivers ten fine performances that highlight his extraordinary skills.
The band supporting Fletcher, who does all the electric guitar and vocal work, is outstanding. Travis Carlton on bass and Lemar Carter and David Kida share time on drums to provide a great backline. Jeff Babko on keys is exemplary in support of this effort. The horn section of Joe Sublett on sax and Mark Pender on trumpet are superb. A couple of guests are noted for the final track.
“Ain’t No Cure for the Downhearted” opens the disc. Fletcher lays out some great licks on his guitar in this funky and slick number. The organ backs him nicely as he provides savory and tasty solo work for us. He has also become a damned good singer and songwriter– this is a great start to a fine CD. He also has done a powerful, timely and slick video that is available on YouTube of this song that highlights the themes he sings of. The horns come in and the pace slows down for “No Place to Go,” a somber cut with Fletcher singing emotionally and offering some guitar licks that really suit the mood of the song. Again, the guitar solo is a highlight.
He follows that with “Love Is More Than A Word,” a blues ballad where Fletcher sings of what he’s shared in his love. The guitar, horns and organ all set a pretty backdrop for the cut and Fletcher offers up even more sweet solo work on his axe. “Struggle for Grace” is another slower tempo-ed piece, a pretty blues with some thoughtful and impressive guitar work. “I’d Rather Fight Than Switch” is the first cover and it is an A.C. Reed song that uses the old Tareyton cigarette commercial phrase to highlight that he’s is not going to change the way he does his music. Fletcher tells us that he’s a soulful bluesman and nothing’s going to change that. It’s pretty obvious that’s he’s right– what guitar work! He builds this up to a frenzied and cool conclusion.
The second half of the album opens with “Heart So Heavy,” a slow and moving blues about loss with heavy and heartfelt guitar. It’s a heavy and very powerful cut. “”Fattening Frogs for Snakes” is an old American proverb about expending lots of energy and effort in an endeavor and not reaping benefit from it. It’s also an old Sonny Boy Williamson II/Rice Miller cut and many of the older blues men felt this way as the early rockers cashed in on the blues where they did not.
Chris Cain’s “Place In This World” is next, with Fletcher laying out guitar in the style of Cain and B.B. King with a big, ringing tone. He pulls it off and sounds cool in his ample fretwork. “D Is For Denny” is a really cool instrumental piece where Fletcher’s guitar rings clearly and with fine tone. He plays with evident enthusiasm as he strolls through the vibrant song.
The final song is an acoustic cut with Josh Smith on the National Reso-Phonic Guitar and Charlie Musselwhite on harp. Fletcher plays acoustic guitar and sings in this pretty cut entitled “Life Gave Me A Dirty Deal.” The song is dark; he sings this Juke Boy Bonner cut with real feeling. Bonner was a Texas bluesman and student of the music of Lightnin’ Hopkins, Jimmy Reed, and Slim Harpo and played both guitar and harp. He lost a large part of his stomach to ulcers and later died in his apartment at age forty-six of cirrhosis of the liver. Fletcher takes this song to a pinnacle with super vocals and guitar with Musselwhite blowing mean harp and Smith doling out some great work on his resonator. It’s a fantastic cover.
Kirk Fletcher is an outstanding guitar player who is rapidly morphing into becoming a superb front man and leader of his own band. His vocal prowess has continually improved and he sings with great confidence and authority. I think he is destined to become one of the blues world’s top acts. My Blues Pathway is on my list of 2020’s top blues albums; do not miss it!